Two Nights of Umphrey's McGee in Colorado 6.7 & 6.8

Words By J-man
Photos By Kevin Hahn

At a time of elevated expectations, unchecked judgement and the saturation of many of the country's music scenes, one band continues their climb to the top. A large part of Umphrey's McGee's rise to musical power has included attention to the mountain state of Colorado. Overwhelming passion and repeated showings from their fans in CO have yielded a raised bar and direct criticism of every show that the band performs. To speak bluntly, Umphrey's McGee's last couple of Red Rock shows have fallen short in the minds of many die hard "Umphreaks," creating a notion that their Boulder show that typically follows Red Rocks is the show not to be missed. With a huge announcement in the works, Umphrey's McGee had big plans for their two night Colorado run. Night one would take place at the fabled Red Rocks Amphitheatre, whereas night two would unfold at the almost unfamiliar Chautauqua Auditorium, nestled at the base of the ever-so-epic Flatirons (large flat rock faces in succession that shoot from the ground in an impressive array).

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

The lot at Red Rocks became the center of the universe for UM fans on Friday evening, with many folks skipping out on work to make it out early for the party. As the lot filled in from south to north, the stage was set for an evening with one of our scene's greatest bands at arguably the country's greatest venue. From all directions people of all ages converged on Red Rocks while openers Delta Spirit and Dr. Dog warmed up the crowd for an action packed evening of ripping virtuosity. As the sun set, the house music transformed into the orchestral "In The Hall of The Mountain King" with the boys from Chicago taking the stage and playing along. They began with the classic song "Divisions," off of their debut album Greatest Hits Vol. III. Wasting no time at all, UM took it from zero to sixty with soaring instrumentation, duel leads and massive solo work that include shredding just a couple of minutes into the set. For any other band, the song could have been an encore, but for those in attendance on that Friday, "Divisions" was just the beginning. The unfinished song seamlessly transitioned into "The Floor," another song that has been in the band's arsenal for years. It built and built with a perfect tempo, laying the foundation for Brendan Bayliss to take over on vocals, before initially taking an intense turn, then resolving to peaking guitar work from Jake Cinninger. Twenty four minutes after the set began, the crowd was given their first breather.

"Loose Ends" followed for the evening's first short song, again featuring Bayliss' vocals. "Loose Ends" transitioned into "40's Theme," a song that the band has been playing for over a decade. As things slowed down in the middle of the song, Jake took the liberty of introducing the band starting with Ryan Stasik. "This is kind of where we start the groove from, you see." Jake said with a smile. "A lot of times it just starts with this," as Stasik thumped away. "Sometimes that's all you need," Jake said as a sort of follow up. Joel Cummins' intro followed, with Andy Farag sliding in on the congas per Jake's request. Kris Myers came next with Bayliss getting his mention before taking over to intro Jake. There was a light breeze in the air as Jake jumped into an airy solo that soared through impressive arpeggios and perfect tone, before the band once again took off returning to the signature lick from "40's Theme!" The crowd erupted with appreciation. It was clear already that the evening was not "just another UM Red Rocks show."

Favorite, "In The Kitchen" triggered the true fans to sing along with Bayliss as they tore through yet another classic Umphrey's original before heading into a spacey realm. The evening's cover/mash-up came in the form of "Frankie Zombie." The debut single "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood collided with Rob Zombie's "Thunder Kiss 65!" The result was nonsensical yet quite enjoyable. Next up was the first set closer, "Miss Tinkle's Overture," which is also on Anchor Drops alongside "In The Kitchen." The crowd was thrilled as Jefferson Waffle flexed his visual muscles the whole show up to that point, outputting one of the most impressive touring light shows on the scene. Towards the middle of the composition, the band cut loose, featuring some tasty grooves and an impressive sense of direction. Myers lead the charge reflecting epic precision and timing pulling into the closing of the the first set.

The second set began with "Triple Wide," a crunchy favorite that opens up to endless improvisational possibilities. Red Rocks became a dance party! Folks rushed back to their seats as to not miss a minute of the performance. Heavy synth work from Joel took the band straight into "1348" from their 2009 release, Mantis. Distortion built with fury as "1348" kicked into full gear. The venue became a madhouse of people dancing and celebrating what up to that point was an incredible setlist. Atmospheric highs dropped down into the signature lick before one last instrumental burst. The set continued with "Push The Pig," making room for Joel to show what he could do on the synth. Also at the forefront was Stasik, dropping phat baselines that made the crowd wobble with sensual low end delight. "Push The Pig" jumped up a beat and transitioned into the newer, "Comma Later." The song's jam was already well developed with the band diving into an interesting section. Another throwback came in the form of "Glory" with Jake chopping away at his guitar in a percussive fashion. The sweet song built into something powerful and prominent before the band returned to the earlier unfinished "Divisions!" Another transition to another throwback from over a decade ago, came with "Get In The Van."

As the second set wound down the band continued the charge with "August," another song off of their debut album from 1998. After a short couple of minutes, they segued into "Big Heart," for a few minutes returning to "August" with Bayliss' vocals. The middle through to the end of the song was a perfect example of UM's rage and fluid ability. As folks feared the second set was over, it was clear the band intended to continue... and continue they did with AC/DC's hit song "Thunderstruck" off of their 1990 album, Razor's Edge! Long time UM family member, Clayton Halsey, joined the band on vocals. The opening lick sent the crowd into a frenzy and Waffle reaching into his bag of tricks for some raging pyrotechnics! This was a Rock N Roll show and UM had the riffs, rage and fire to prove it. With the conclusion of the second set, the band exited the stage and up on the screen came the announcement of three nights at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO for New Years! After letting the crowd soak in the news and text their friends across the country, the band returned for a short "Preamble" that opened up to the title track from their 2009 release, Mantis! One last trip through a handful of peaks and valleys lead to the evening's final notes.

Fans old and new exited the venue in a haze, trying to piece together what they had just experienced. The talk of the lot was Chautauqua and what the following night would bring. For many it was a pipe dream, as the Auditorium only holds 1,300 people, a fraction of what Red Rocks could accommodate. For 1,300 lucky fans, the following night in Boulder would be a very special treat!

Set One: Divisions > The Floor, Loose Ends > 40's Theme, In The Kitchen, Frankie Zombie, Miss Tinkle's Overture

Set Two: The Triple Wide -> 1348, Push the Pig > Comma Later, Glory > Divisions > Get In The Van, August > Big Heart > August, Thunderstruck

Encore: Preamble > Mantis

Chautauqua Auditorium
Boulder, CO

Umphrey's fans shifted their universe to Boulder on Saturday night with just over a thousand lucky fans clutching what felt like a golden ticket. The approach to the auditorium had the feel of a college campus with blankets in the grass and frisbees in the air. Familiar UM fans hugged and celebrated what would be a beautiful night as the line to get in began to build. At the front of the line a friendly police officer watched over a herd of hippies who consumed both alcohol and marijuana openly. "There are no bathrooms inside. Bathrooms are located in the Dining Hall over there and we do allow re-entry," the officer said to the crowd of confused onlookers. Entering the venue the staff and security seemed to be volunteers, creating a very comfortable environment. Light from outside shined through the cracks in the walls further elevating the feeling of an intimate barn show, yet this was no barn. The band took the stage in the small room and began with "Thin Air," off of their long out of print, Songs For Older Women." Once again, by the end of their first song, they were already shredding.

"This place is spectacular, so thanks for inviting us out to your party," Bayliss said with a smile before the band went into "Puppet String." They worked their way into the composition, digging deep sonically, tapping into an array of sounds. With a switch to two acoustic guitars, Umphrey's jumped into "The Linear." The sound of Joel on piano and Brendan and Jake on acoustics was bright and spectacular! The band segued into one of their new originals, "New Diablo," while keeping it acoustic. From their most recent album, Death By Stereo came "Dim Sun," a short instrumental that offered a bit of a reprieve from UM's typical in your face rage. "Dim Sun" went into "The Weight Around" from UM's 2006 release, Safety in Numbers." The final song of the acoustic run came in the form of The Doobie Brothers' "Black Water," which got a warm response from the excited crowd. The vocal work was clean and a lot fun through almost acapella style sections.

"Ladies and gentleman a round of applause for Joel Cummins... The man, the myth, the legend. It's a privilege and an honor to stand next to this man every night. I learn every day from this guy. Not a day goes by where wisdom isn't parted from this man," Brendan said in a humorous manner. "Thank you. Brendan, you're a lucky guy. Sweet Hoodie," Joel fired back. Following some laughter from the crowd, the band closed the first set with "All in Time," setting the stage for one of the evening's clear highlights. The song comes from the band's first album and reflected years of practice and development. For approximately twenty minutes the band explored the full potential of "All In Time," venturing through an array of musical stylings. "Thank you all very much. We're Andy Farag and the Fabric Softeners. We're taking a very short break. We'll see ya in a few minutes for another set, so don't go changin'." Following the first set the typical mad scramble ensued with folks heading outside to smoke, or to the beer garden for a drink, as their was no alcohol allowed inside of the venue.

With Umphrey's fans staring down the barrel of the final set of the two night run, there was a bittersweet excitement in the air. The second set began with "Robot World" off of Anchor Drops, noted on the official setlist as "Jimmy Stewart" with lyrics. "Example 1" followed off of their 2001 release, One Fat Sucka, creating a nice balance in the setlist with a slower, grooving track. Another few throwbacks made the evening's cut as the band kicked into "Nemo," keeping pace with a bit of a chill groove before "Walletsworth." The fury of the track felt like it was going to cause a collapse of the venue, with UM starting and stopping on the drop of a dime before venturing into "Nothing Too Fancy" from Local Band Does O.K.. This point of the show was another of the clear highlights. The duel lead work of Brendan and Jake reinforced why many consider them one of the best guitar duos on the scene. Myers' playing on the kit was mind-blowing, never missing a beat and almost always leading the charge. Through intense as well as soothing transitions, the composition of the extended song was incredible. Eighteen minutes after it began it was assumed that we had reached the conclusion of the second set, but nay. Leave it to UM to "blow their stack" and go back for more.

The second set closed with a sixteen minute "Booth Love" off of Mantis. The song was a great way to wind down the set... then wind it back up. UM exited the stage for a couple of mins only to return to the "We want the UMPH" chant from the capacity crowd. "Thank you Colorado for making this weekend as amazing as it has been! We couldn't do it without you guys," Jake said with a cheers. The first of two encores began with "Syncopated Strangers," another song the has been in the mix for the better part of a decade. The song began sweet and got extremely weird in the middle with soaring synth and almost middle eastern sounding vocals from Bayliss, before returning to normalcy and transitioning into "Dear Prudence" to end the weekend. Though it wasn't ripping, it was a heartfelt way to celebrate a great couple of days together. Folks sang along, smiled and hugged knowing that would be the end. Many took comfort in the fact that UM would be returning to Colorado for their New Years run.

Set One: Thin Air, Puppet String, The Linear > No Diablo, Dim Sun, The Weight Around, Black Water, All In Time

Set Two: Robot World > Example 1, Nemo, Walletsworth > Nothing Too Fancy, Booth Love

Encore: Syncopated Strangers > Dear Prudence

The bar was set high for Umphrey's McGee's two night Colorado run and they themselves raised it further. Two flawless nights of music in addition to some of the best lights on our scene, ensured that no fan left unsatisfied. As Umphrey's fans and popularity continue to grow, I see only greatness for this powerhouse of a band. It may be that there are bands with a bigger following who have been at it longer, but I would argue that UM is one of the best at what they do and on the rise to the top of the musical pyramid. I've said it before and I will say it again: "Ask me who my favorite band is and I will probably say 'Umphrey's McGee!'"

Kevin's Red Rocks Photo Gallery

Kevin's Chautauqua Photo Gallery


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